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The ultimate cure for stress, Siberian-style

By Derek Lambie & Anna Liesowska
30 October 2014

Surgeon who suffered health issues turns to daredevil ski action on 'impossible' mountain slopes to relax.

Dmitry Shchitov, 56-years-old: 'It was like a test drive of my new approach to medicine.' Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

It is one of the world’s most dangerous places with sheer drops, vertical slopes and the constant risk of avalanche. Located on the eastern side of Belukha Mountain, Butylochka glacier – The Bottle Neck, in English – has been described as 'impossible' to ski. Yet it is here, in the heart of this remote Siberian ice field, that one man incredibly came to relax.

At first glance Dmitry Shchitov appears every bit the typical adrenaline junky, dicing with death on terrifying 80 degree slopes. But instead he views his daredevil actions as nothing more than a hobby and a way to unwind from the pressures of the past.

Now 56-years-old, he spent a decade working as an oncologist in Kemerovo before suffering from stress and other health issues.

'When I was about 30, I got serious problems', he says. I had a lot of stress at work, which I helped to relieve by playing football. Whatever the weather we played for several hours.

'But then I tore my meniscus so couldn’t play anymore and my health was getting worse and worse. I was so young yet I was getting really sick. I had problems with my arms and legs, and at some point all these health issues got to me and I thought the time had come to change it all.'

Northern slope of Belukha mountain


View on Belukha mountain


Way to Belukha mountain

Located on the eastern side of Belukha Mountain, Butylochka glacier – The Bottle Neck (top). Belikha Mountain (bottom). Pictures: Dmitry Shchitov

Dmitry, who was born in Novosibirsk, took up a chiropractor course at the Novokuznetsk Institute for Advanced Studies and met doctors 'with sparks in their eyes' who helped kindle a desire to change his life.

'I wanted to be like them', the former surgeon explains. 'And by studying there I realised that there was a way to repair my own health. I realised that when a person gets sick, he or she needs to understand what they are doing wrong and change it. Usually it means changing their whole lifestyle'.

Deciding to become the first person in the world to tackle the sheer slopes of the Bottle Neck glacier was his way begin conquering his stress and transforming his health.

The highest peak of the Altai Mountains in Russia, Belukha is part of the World Heritage Site and stands at almost 15,000ft in elevation.

Dmitry spent a great deal of time honing his skiing skills before attempting the one-kilometre-long descent on the glacier, which is sandwiched between rocks on both sides like a bottle neck.

Dmitry Schitov


Dmitry on the slope Dmitry on the slope

Dmitry Schitov on Belukha Mountain. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya, Dmitry Shchitov

After it was accomplished, and recorded on camera, Dmitry says he has never looked back and his health has been revitalised.

He says: 'It was like a test drive of my new approach to medicine, which was all about believing that a lot, if not all, diseases come from negative emotions like fear, anger, stress and also an unhealthy lifestyle.

'The ride was needed, first of all for myself to prove that I was right, and then to share my experience with others. The slope, as you look at it, seems to be absolutely vertical but as you look at it closely you realise that there are bits that have a gradient, with little ledges you can cling to.

'The video we made isn’t the best quality. But in fact it’s quite a miracle we made it since the choice of equipment was not as rich as it is now. Now if I was to have something like a GoPro, I would have filmed a lot of very interesting moments, like one when you almost fly down and there is a near-vertical ice floe in front of you, with nanoseconds to decide how exactly to jump over it'.

Another reason Dmitry decided to do the 'impossible' glacier was to show mountain climbers how to adapt their equipment to get down slopes in a faster and safer way.

Dmitry Schitov


Dmitry Schitov on the slope


Free ride on Belukha slope

Dmitry Schitov on Belukha Mountain. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya, Dmitry Shchitov

He had shortened his skis by one metre and then changed them to look more like skates to deal with the icy surface for his daring downhill. His descent down the Bottle Neck took only an hour and a half, while climbers would likely have spent half a day on the same route.

'When you go down such a slope you don’t think speed or style, you think survival,” he says. “I had no fear. There was certainly physical and psychological tensions, but I wasn’t scared.”

And as for his stress? 'I proved that I could work with my emotions and get rid of fear – and so can others', he insists.

Comments (1)

By Gum...I'm stressed out now just from watching him. "Doc, can I now take my tablets?" PS, Seriously! He is a good skier.
Jaker, Dundalk
14/04/2015 23:58
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